Crime & Justice

15 Hong Kong dissidents granted bail, but remain in custody pending review

By Shirley Lau

Hong Kong, Mar 4 (efe-epa).- A Hong Kong court on Thursday granted bail to 15 of the 47 dissidents charged with subversion under the controversial national security law after a marathon hearing that lasted four days, although they were sent back to custody for 48 hours while the prosecution sought a review of the decision.

After the West Kowloon court granted bail to the 15 accused, prosecutors immediately appealed the decision, and as per local laws, the dissidents have to remain in custody for 48 hours while the Supreme Court decides on their release.

The family members of the dissidents expressed their disappointment over the prosecution’s decision to appeal the decision, and feared that the appellate court might reject the bail, as in the case of business tycoon Jimmy Lai, charged under the same law.

Meanwhile judge Victor So refused bail to 31 other accused – who have been sent to preventive custody until the trial starts on May 31 – not finding “sufficient grounds for him to believe they would not continue to endanger national security.”

The 47th accused, Benny Tai, on Thursday withdrew his bail plea after another court sent him to preventive custody in a separate case.

The 15 accused granted bail by the judge include 10 current district councilors, lawyers and various activists linked to the pro-democracy movement.

However, the judge ruled that they would under no circumstances “endanger national security if released on bail,” and refrain from releasing speeches or organizing activities that could be construed as such.

Those denied bail include the former convener of the Civil Human Rights Front Jilly Sham, former president of the Democratic Party Wu Chi-wai, and activists Leung Kwok-hung and Eddie Chu.

At least 25 of these dissidents have expressed the intention of approaching the courts again on Mar. 12 seeking a review of the decision.

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